As summer vacation nears, we may be imagining family trips to the river or hikes and bike rides with our kids. In fact, real life might be more likely to feature kids sitting down and playing video games while we’re at work. A recent study found that kids were 53% less active during summer vacation. How can we get reality more in line with the active summers we imagine?
Find the fun
Find an activity that your kids enjoy. Better yet, find something the whole family likes. From pickleball to rock climbing to folk dancing, there are so many possibilities that you are bound to find something enjoyable for everyone.
Go into the search with the idea that you might need to try out a few things before you find the active recreation that works best for you as a family or for your child. This is more likely to succeed than forcing a commitment before you try a few different activities.
When considering possibilities, pay attention to the practical aspects. Horseback riding might be fun, but if you don’t own a horse, it might not be an everyday experience. The same could be true of swimming. Walking and bike riding, hiking, yoga, or tai chi are accessible for most people in Northwest Arkansas, either right outside your door or inside with the help of YouTube.
Working out a playgroup schedule with other parents or joining a kids’ recreation program or class can make physical activity more convenient. And don’t forget gardening and walking the dog — taking on active chores is another great way to keep kids active.
Make a schedule
One of the explanations researchers have identified for lower levels of activity in the summer is that kids often have very unstructured days. While they could spend those long lazy days running and playing outdoors, they often don’t. Setting up regular play dates, family activities, and organized sports routines can help kids stay active during the summer.
Earlier generations may remember their parents telling them to go outside and play and just be home for dinner. The world has changed. Nowadays, very few parents allow kids this level of unsupervised freedom. Making a regular plan for family yoga time may be a more practical way to encourage movement for modern kids.
As with any good habit you want to take up, habit stacking is one of the most successful approaches. Choose something you already do and attach your new habit to that. For example, the whole family could work out together while dinner is in the oven, or go for a walk first thing in the morning. Kids could walk the dog after lunch or take a dance break right after their scheduled video game time.
Reduce screen time
Some studies have found that reducing screen time automatically increases kids’ active time. Research has also indicated that more screen time is associated with more snacking.
Consider setting a limit of two hours per day of screen time. Avoid having a TV or computer in children’s bedrooms and use time limit settings on phones to cut down on Snapchat time. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has a helpful screen time chart you can use to track your family’s screen use.
Apple and Google allow you to set screen time limits for your child’s devices.
You can also make screen time part of your child’s daily schedule. Having a reasonable amount of allowed screen time every day can help kids keep their screen time to sensible levels.
With a little planning, you can help your kids stay active this summer…and maybe develop some healthy and fun family habits as well.
Image courtesy of Adobe